Business and Finances: November 2006 Archives

Dynavax shares rocket on hepatitis B vaccine data

dynavaxSAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) -- Dynavax Technologies Corp. shares soared as much as 44% Wednesday to reach their highest level ever after the company said its experimental hepatitis B vaccine protected all of the patients it tested in a late-stage clinical trial.

Shares of the Berkeley, Calif.-based drugmaker (DVAX) were changing hands for $9.96 in afternoon trading, up $2.56 and off an earlier high of $10.66.

Dynavax said that after three doses, its Heplisav vaccine protected 100% of a "difficult-to-immunize" population of adults aged 40 to 70 years compared with GlaxoSmithKline PLC's (GSK) Engerix-B vaccine, which was found to protect 73.1% of such people. In those ranging from 56 to 70 years of age, Heplisav's rate of protection was similarily 100% vs. a 56.1% rate for Engerix-B.

Merck fights each lawsuit but the costs are adding up

vioxx(Houston Chronicle (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Nov. 28--In September 2004, when pharmaceutical giant Merck withdrew its best-selling painkiller Vioxx amid concern over potentially fatal side effects, many of the nation's plaintiff lawyers were wide-eyed with anticipation.

Ominous headlines had circulated for years, prompted by studies that indicated Vioxx increased the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Merck's decision to withdraw the drug from the market, despite annual sales of $2.5 billion, was an invitation for lawsuits.

A trickle grew into a steady stream and eventually a torrent of litigation. The plaintiffs' prospects looked good, especially after the New England Journal of Medicine published an editorial accusing Merck of concealing heart attacks suffered by individuals who were part of a Vioxx study reported in the prestigious magazine in 2000.

Pfizer to slash U.S. sales force

pfizerNEW YORK ( -- Pfizer said it would cut its U.S. sales force by 20 percent as part of an ongoing effort to reduce costs.

Pfizer (up $0.08 to $27.05, Charts), the world's biggest drug company, announced the impending job cuts in the form of a press release but did not say when the reductions would take place.

The job cuts, which will affect some 2,200 workers, are coming from all levels of Pfizer's sales organization - from senior management to field representatives, Pfizer spokesman Paul Fitzhenry told Reuters.

Bayer Third-Quarter Profit Beats Analyst Estimates


bayerBayer AG, Germany's largest drugmaker, said third-quarter profit fell less than analysts estimated and raised the earnings forecast for its pharmaceuticals unit after the 17 billion-euro ($22.3 billion) purchase of Schering AG.

Net income fell 35 percent to 320 million euros, or 42 cents a share, from 493 million euros, or 68 cents, a year earlier, Leverkusen-based Bayer said today. That exceeded the 195 million euro median estimate of nine analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Sales rose 26 percent to 7.78 billion euros.

Schering's Betaferon multiple sclerosis treatment and Yasmin birth-control pills led the drug unit's gain. Bayer expanded the drug division as governments and health insurers around the world cut health-care spending by trimming prices and using generic medicines. Bayer will close sites in the U.S. in a plan to slash expenses by 700 million euros a year to counter higher raw material costs and the crop-science unit's falling profit.

alba therapeuticsBALTIMORE, Md. - Alba Therapeutics Corporation announced today that it secured a $10 million venture debt commitment from a syndicate consisting of Atel Ventures, Inc., Oxford Finance Corporation and SVB Silicon Valley Bank. This additional source of capital will enable the company to accelerate the clinical development of AT-1001 in celiac disease and other autoimmune indications during 2007.

AT-1001 is an orally administered zonulin receptor antagonist that is currently under investigation in a multicenter, double blind, placebo controlled Phase II dose ranging study to evaluate the safety, tolerability and efficacy of AT-1001 in 79 CD subjects during gluten challenge.

"The promising clinical and preclinical data generated with AT-1001 in celiac disease and other autoimmune conditions warranted that we access this capital in order to expedite activities supporting clinical trials," said Blake Paterson, M.D., Chief Executive Officer of Alba. "We now have the ability to fast track the AT-1001 program to address the enormous unmet needs of celiac patients and others suffering from autoimmune diseases."

allergy, asthmaDUBLIN, Ireland--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Research and Markets has announced the addition of Espicom Business Intelligences New Drug Futures: Respiratory Chapter to their offering.

This chapter of New Drug Futures evaluates, compares and contrasts the prospects for the compounds that will revolutionise the pharmaceutical industry over the next 5 years and beyond in the respiratory sector. The report includes unique sales forecasts by major product.

The Respiratory market is the fourth largest therapeutic category by sales and generated nearly US$32.4 billion (+8% YoY) in 2005. Sales grew steadily in the US, which accounted for around 54% of global respiratory sales, driven by growth in Advair, GlaxoSmithKline's leading combination therapy for the treatment of asthma/COPD and Merck's Singulair for the treatment of asthma and allergic rhinitis. Sales in Europe are now growing steadily; around 5% following the uptake of new treatments such as Symbicort (AstraZeneca) and Alvesco (Altana/sanofi-aventis) which have yet to be approved in the US markets.

AstraZeneca banking on asthma inhaler


symbicortThe asthma drug AstraZeneca Plc. plans to bring to the United States next year could be just what the doctor ordered for the pharmaceutical giant as it works to rebuild a drug development pipeline hamstrung by the termination of several once-promising prospects.

In mid-2007, AstraZeneca, whose U.S. headquarters is in Fairfax and which employs about 5,000 statewide, plans to roll out Symbicort.

Symbicort is an asthma inhaler that combines two drugs to treat both the swelling of the airways and constriction of the muscles around the airways.

$120m gift for cancer research


donationThe estate of a wealthy New York businessman who died in 1992 is donating $120 million of his real estate fortune to six cancer research organizations, including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The six recipients will get $20 million each this year and millions more in future years.

The Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, which was established by shipping tycoon Daniel K. Ludwig, planned to announce the gift today.

Board members of the nonprofit foundation said they have asked the six institutions to abide by several stipulations, including to collaborate on research projects and to study how cancer spreads in the body. Ninety percent of cancer patients die from metastasis, instead of the original tumor. The foundation's board also urged the researchers to choose daring, high-risk projects that might not win government funding.

rockefeller foundationRumours that one of the world's most prestigious private philanthropic organisations - the Rockefeller Foundation - is about to withdraw its commitments to health are untrue, the Foundation's president has told The Lancet in an Editorial published online November 7, 2006.

The Foundation, founded in 1913, has over $3•4 billion in assets and more than 170 employees worldwide. Its funding led to the development of a yellow fever vaccine in 1935 and it has played a central part in establishing American schools of public health. Last year, it donated $8 million to the International Partnership for Microbicides as part of its contribution to prevent HIV transmission; $500 000 to Makerere University, Uganda, for public health education; and $450 000 to the INDEPTH Network in Ghana for epidemiology training. 

Bayer To Bring More Jobs To N.J.

bayer healthcare(AP) WAYNE, N.J. New Jersey is expected to gain several hundred jobs in its already formidable pharmaceutical sector when Bayer HealthCare moves several units to the state over the next 18 months.

Bayer HealthCare, part of the German chemical and drug maker Bayer AG, said Wayne and Montville would be headquarters for its U.S. pharmaceutical commercial operations, as well as its global oncology and specialized therapeutics units.

The towns will also be home to Bayer HealthCare's U.S.-based global drug development groups and other business support functions, the company announced Thursday.

courtNEW YORK -- Merck & Co. agreed to drop some of its objections to plaintiff lawyers' request for fees in a Vioxx case, but only if it doesn't have to disclose its own legal fees to a judge.

Plaintiff lawyer Ellen Relkin said Merck dropped some of its objections because it fears a N.J. judge may publicly disclose what it spent on a trial that ended earlier this year. Merck lawyer Ted Mayer said the drugmaker's legal fees have no relation to the plaintiff lawyers' request and that companies always want to be careful when asked to reveal such sensitive information.

Any disclosure of what Merck spent on a case would provide a window into how much the drugmaker's strategy of individually trying each of the roughly 24,000 cases it faces will ultimately cost. So far, Merck has set aside about $1.57 billion to cover legal expenses.

altanaFRANKFURT (AFX) - Altana AG said sales of its drug Pantoprazole are expected to drop by more than 50 pct in 2011 from the expected 2006 level.

In 2005, Altana posted 1.4 bln eur sales for Pantoprazole.

The company -- which is due to hold an extraordinary general meeting on Tuesday Dec 19 -- said in a detailed statement on the internet that it expects sales for the ulcer drug to fall by another 25 pct by 2016.

Altana is to lose its protection patent for Pantoprazole in Europe in 2009. The statement added that Altana's asthma treatments Ciclesonide and Roflumilast (Daxas) are not in a position to reach their full sales potential, previously put at 1 bln eur each.

Novartis says will not pay more asthma royalties


NovartisZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Novartis AG  will not pay more royalties for asthma drug Xolair if U.S. biotech firm Genentech Inc. buys Tanox Inc. as planned.

"If Genentech is successful in acquiring Tanox, our rights in this partnership will not change and any royalties paid to Tanox will then be paid to Genentech," Novartis spokesman John Gilardi said. "Our rights under this agreement will not change."

Genentech, which is majority owned by Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG, said on Thursday it plans to buy Tanox for about $919 million to boost income from the anti-asthma treatment.

Genentech, Tanox and Novartis have been working together since 1996 to develop and market the drug.

Biotech drugs for colon cancer face off


erbituxNEW YORK (Reuters) - Sales of colon cancer drug Erbitux have not been hurt by the launch last month of Amgen Inc.'s rival drug Vectibix, the chief executive of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. said on Wednesday.

"It is awfully soon, but they launched at a discount, which usually suggests that the product may not be as good as ours or is for a narrower indication," James Cornelius, interim CEO of Bristol-Myers, said at the Reuters Health Summit in New York.

Bristol gets 60 percent of revenue from partner ImClone Systems Inc.'s sales of Erbitux.

Amgen, which priced its drug at $8,000 a month, or a 20 percent discount to the $10,000 a month average cost of Erbitux, is expected a carry out a formidable campaign to dislodge Erbitux as the leading treatment for colon cancer patients who have failed other therapies and said earlier this week the launch of Vectibix is going better than expected.

Merck Discloses 4 Tax Disputes


merckMerck & Co. has disclosed four separate tax disputes in the U.S. and Canada with potential liabilities totaling $5.58 billion, as the drug maker faces tens of thousands of lawsuits over its withdrawn painkiller Vioxx, The Wall Street Journal reported on its Web site Tuesday.

Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck says it is fighting the assessments disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Journal said.

Merck isn't the only drugmaker hit with steep tax bills. In September, GlaxoSmithKline PLC agreed to pay the U.S. government $3.4 billion to settle a dispute over how to tax deals between the London-based company and its American subsidiary.